Weddings are the best, right? Bringing a ton of family and friends together plus great food, amazing drinks, and some killer music. And you know, that whole thing of two people coming together for love for the rest of their lives. What is there not to like?
Even though weddings are a joyous time of celebration and happiness, we know not everyone is super familiar with the ins and outs of wedding guest etiquette. Maybe you need to learn how to dress, or how to dance, or how to talk to your ex from high school who you haven’t seen in a decade.
Since it seems “wedding season” is pretty much a year-round thing these days, we’re here to help.
Get the deets.
We know—sounds obvious, right? Well, you’d be surprised how many people read the invitation and then neglect to follow its rules. For instance, does it say you can bring a plus one? Do you need to select which meal you want? Is there a break between the ceremony and reception?
Most of your questions will be answered on the invitation, and for good reason. People spend a lot of money (and time) on wedding invitations. Sharon Naylor tallied the average cost in Bridalguide: “The average price for 150 invitations and response cards is $245. Factor in save-the-dates ($114) menu cards ($114), programs ($108), thank-you cards ($92) and place cards ($77) for an average grand total of $750 (before postage).”
They did all of this to make sure you’ve got the correct information, displayed in the most beautiful way. Be courteous and don’t add to the happy couple’s stress: Read the invitation properly and respond quickly. Then mark your calendars so you don’t forget and put that thing on your fridge.
Don’t pull a Lloyd and Harry.
As much as we all love Dumb and Dumber, there is no reason to follow in Lloyd and Harry’s footsteps by wearing a bright blue or orange tuxedo to a wedding (unless it’s a Halloween theme with costumes).
In Evansville Living, Louis LaPlante drops a few sartorial hints: “If there was ever a time not to stand out, this is it. The bride should be the center of attention on her wedding day, and if you’re dressed inappropriately (even too casually), people will notice, which removes the focus from her. If dress is unspecified on the invitation, remove the guesswork and go with a suit. Dark suits work throughout the year, and lighter suits are good for spring and summer weddings.”
If you want to stand out a bit, get yourself a nice pocket square, tie (bow-tie perhaps?), or some really unique socks. You’ll blend in while still showing off some personality. Just leave the all-white suit in the closet; this isn’t your high school prom.
Fill that gift table.
Traditional etiquette says that guests have one full year to send their gift. But trust us, just do it right away and get it over with. To make it easier, try to get the gift to the couple the night of the wedding or ship it to them beforehand so it’s one less thing you have to worry about.
A great option is to add to their honeymoon fund (if they have one) or write them a check to help pay for the expenses of their choosing. It may sound a bit boring, but cash is the golden ticket for a newlywed couple. After all, how many blenders does one family need?
Though you should traditionally stick with what’s on the registry (after all, they know their needs and style better than you do), if you simply must deviate from it, don’t forget a gift receipt.
Mind the time (and transport).
Whatever your means of transportation, make sure it’s in order and ready to go. Make sure the subway lines are clear, make sure gas is in your car, or make sure Uber has drivers in your area. Whatever method you’re choosing, make sure it works and plan for the best. Finally, set your alarm. Then set three more.
We’ve all heard an urban legend-esque tale of a pre-wedding party gone wrong. One groomsman we knew celebrated too hard at the rehearsal dinner and left his phone in his car. The next day, everyone was trying to reach him to see where he was and, of course, he didn’t answer. Finally, his mom found him asleep, woke him up, and dropped him off at the venue, two hours late. Needless to say, the groom was a bit stressed out about the situation.
The lesson here is don’t lose your phone and if you do, set an old-school clock alarm like we did in middle school. Because if you lose your phone the night before your best friend’s wedding, you deserve to be woken up by the most annoying clock alarm sound in the history of the world.
Talk to everyone else, too.
You might be great friends with the bride and groom, but maybe you have never met either of their parents or grandparents. Sorry to break it to you, fellas: We are all adults now and can’t shy away behind the legs of our parents to avoid saying hello.
Seek out those who organized this event and those paid for it. Say hello and thank you. Let them know that you appreciate the wedding, that you are
As for the people of your past you maybe haven’t seen in awhile—like your ex girlfriend who happens to be close friends with the bride—say hello to break the tension and then go your own way. There’s no need to dredge up the past when the mood should only be joyous and celebratory. You are probably exes for a reason, but perhaps after a night on the wedding reception dance floor, you can at least be friends.
We don’t need to dive to deep into this—we all know our limits, right?—but don’t celebrate so much you lose your phone.
Remember, there will probably be pictures and videos constantly rolling throughout the night; you don’t want to be that 30-year-old giving the bird to the videographer because you thought it was hilarious in your state of mind, only to realize the next day it was incredibly inappropriate.
Be cool and have fun, but remember this is not a frat party…even if most of your college friends are there.
Play photographer (at the reception).
The bride and groom will be too busy throughout the night to do too much of any one thing, so help them out and take some pictures and videos of you and your friends getting down on the dance floor. Videos are often underrated when looking back.
One great idea is starting a photo stream and sending it out to a bunch of friends so they can all upload their photos and videos to the shared album. It’ll be like having 50 personal photographers throughout the night and will make a great surprise gift for the couple to look back on.
Be cautioned, though: This advice only applies to the reception. At most ceremonies, the couple will have hired a professional photographer to document the event (and most likely paid a pretty penny for their services). By holding up your phone to take a grainy cell phone picture of the first kiss, you could be ruining the shot that professional photographer is trying to get. Put your phone away during the ceremony and enjoy this one, pure moment.
Just dance; it’ll be okay.
You don’t have to dance like nobody’s watching—because surely people are—but the couple paid for music, whether it’s a DJ or a live band, so make use of it. The bride and groom will want everyone to have a good time so prove to them you are by getting out of your comfort zone.
One Reddit user, thedude831, summed it up perfectly: “The day I realized I actually look more awkward and foolish refusing to dance than just blending in with the crowd was a life changer… I’m still not a great dancer, I stay in my zone and know my limits but I have a much better time now.”